Andrean launches air raid on NP
NEW CARLISLE — On top of losing your starting quarterback to an injury, committing 12 penalties for 110 yards, missing an extra point and turning the ball over three times is not a recipe for success, especially if you’re the No. 3-ranked team in Class 4A.
Friday night started a grueling four-game gauntlet for New Prairie, beginning with No. 15 3A Andrean at home, and things went from bad to worse all night long for the Cougars in a 44-28 defeat to the 59ers.
Andrean quarterback Zack Merrill completed 21 of his 28 attempts on the night for 317 yards and five — count ’em — five touchdown passes, three of which went to stud wideout Nick Flesher, who finished the night with seven catches for 116 yards himself.
“We just didn’t have our heads in the game and we weren’t ready to play at all,” Cougars head coach Russ Radtke said after the loss.
The telling sign of Radtke’s analysis of his team could be seen on a play from New Prairie’s first drive of the contest. After using seven plays to march from their own 25-yard-line to the Andrean 25, the Cougars were faced with a 2nd-and-3. A high snap sailed over quarterback Chase Ketterer’s head for a loss of 18 yards, killing all the momentum the hosts had building on their opening drive.
A punt two plays later did pin the 59ers down deep inside of their own 5-yard-line, but a controversial no-call on a potential intentional grounding in the endzone and a defensive pass intereference call on third down helped the 59ers go 97 yards on 10 plays to take an early 7-0 lead.
The air was sucked right out of Miller Field; a common trend throughout the evening.
The Cougars did fend off the early gut-check with an 11-play, 91-yard drive that ended with a six-yard scamper from running back Chris Mays. After a missed extra point, the 59ers went 63 yards in 10 plays to make it 10-6 with 3:40 left.
Three plays later, the Cougars’ eventual fate was sealed.
On 3rd-and-6 from the NP 24, Ketterer took the snap and looked to gain the first down by himself. The junior star was hammered by the Andrean front, fumbling the ball, resulting in a scoop-and-score for Andrean defensive back Eric Hamilton to make it 17-6 Andrean, just like that. Ketterer stayed on the field for a couple of minutes, shaking the cobwebs away for a second and walking off under his own power. He did not return to the game.
“I got hit and my neck went back and slammed down on the ground,” Ketterer said after the game. “My vision was a little blurry, but I’ll be alright. I wanted to go back out there.”
Although the Cougars got a valiant effort from backup quarterback Ian Skornog in Ketterer’s absence, including a 70-yard sprint from his own 20 to the Andrean 10-yard-line and nine-play, 80-yard drive to bring the Cougars within three at 17-14, the 59ers were just too much.
Actually, Nick Flesher was just too much to handle.
Flesher returned the ensuing kickoff from his own 20-yard-line to the New Prairie 37 with 28.3 left. Six plays (and a couple timeouts) later, Merrill found scatback Andrew Benton for an 18-yard touchdown to make it 24-14 59ers before the break.
The Cougars gave it one last push in the latter portion of the second half with a fourth down stop and a couple of big plays from Jacob Tuttle and Daniel Tyler to rack up 14 of their 28 points on the evening in the third.
After Mays’ third touchdown of the night, trimming the Andrean lead down to three at 31-28 with 10:51 to play, the 59ers picked off Skornog twice, sacked him four more times and scored the final 13 points on the night for a huge road victory.
“We’ll regroup and decide whether or not they wanna play the game the right way,” Radtke said.